Jess interned at Faith in Public Life in Fall 2011.
Outside a Capitol Hill Safeway last Thursday morning, faith leaders and members of Congress, made a pledge to take the Food Stamp Challenge–joining local SNAP (food stamp) benefit recipients in a rather challenging grocery trip: figuring out how to feed themselves for the week with only the program’s weekly benefit allotment of $31.50 to spend.
The program, sponsored by Fighting Poverty with Faith, is part of the organization’s effort to cut domestic poverty in half by 2020. A group led by Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Donna Christensen (D-VI), officials from the Department of Agriculture (that administers the SNAP program) spoke about their own pledge to take this challenge with Reps. Norton and Christiansen joining clergy from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths to snake their way through the aisles of Safeway making the same difficult decisions millions of Americans are forced to make every day.
Before the challenge, the participants echoed the protesters of the Occupy movement as they shared their thoughts on the millions of Americans in food insecure households.
Watch Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs explain the event:
Members of Congress also spoke about the ways that myths about poverty undermine support for this crucial program.
“I resent any notion that people are poor because of some perverted enjoyment in being poor, ” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Let me assure you that it’s not fraud that’s causing the rise of demand for nutrition assistance in American, but it’s the years of failed economic policies that have…lined the pockets of corporate billionaires and left that average American behind,” added Rep. Barbara Lee, former Chair of the CBC and Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
For more information, visit Fighting Poverty with Faith’s website.
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During these challenging economic times, the number of Americans relying on food stamps to get by every month has increased sharply. Yet, many conservatives have taken to maligning people in serious need as “living large on the taxpayer’s dime,” and inventing accusations of widespread fraud to justify devastating cuts to the program.
Beginning next week, religious leaders and members of the faith community are putting their faith into action by living off food stamps for a week. This real world experiment, called the Food Stamp Challenge! asks individuals across the nation to live for one week on the average individual’s food stamp allotment ($31.50). This average weekly benefit translates to $4.50 per day, or $1.50 per meal.
The program, organized by Fighting Poverty with Faith, is part of this group’s effort to build a nationwide, interfaith movement to cut domestic poverty in half by 2020. FPWF joins interfaith communities to advocate for clear and direct solutions to reduce poverty and alleviate hunger in the United States.
FPWF is inviting people to join this initiative and to lobby their members of Congress to do so as well. Visit their site here to join in.
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Last November, President Obama met with leaders from the National Council of Churches to discuss the issues of most concern to them. This week, he continued that pattern of religious dialogue, hosting another meeting with the National Association for Evangelicals.
At the summit the evangelical leaders both shared their concerns and reiterated their commitments to areas where they share strong agreement with the President, including mutual concern about dangerous budget cuts (particularly to vital foreign aid programs) and support for comprehensive immigration reform.
While President Obama and NAE leaders also acknowledged that there are issues on which they have real differences, they didn’t let those differences stop them from finding common ground elsewhere. This kind of constructive conversation and careful listening models the kind of honest discourse necessary to build bridges with the faith community and partner with them to make real progress on critical issues.
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